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Celebrating 50 years of the genre, Alt.Latino revisits its favorite hip-hop episodes

The rapper Residente is just one Latin hip-hop artist <em>Alt.Latino</em> has featured on the show.
Gilbert Carrasquillo
/
Getty Images
The rapper Residente is just one Latin hip-hop artist Alt.Latino has featured on the show.

I was born before hip-hop existed. In fact, I was in my 20s as the music made its way into a wider world from where it was born. And I remember thinking, "So this is what it must have felt like when the earliest forms of rock 'n' roll were introduced into the world of music."

Like the music of Little Richard, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Chuck Berry, the earliest forms of hip-hop were disruptive. And by that I mean the music challenged people to consider the communities from which this music came from. Hip-hop was defiant in the way it spoke of the experiences of the young, African American and Afro-Latino folks who started creating it in the Bronx50 years ago.

It wasn't until Jasmine Garsd and I started Alt.Latino in 2010 that I considered hip-hop's impact on the Spanish-speaking world. In fact, I remember very vividly the moment she introduced me to Ana Tijoux from Chile. Initially I was fascinated by her dexterity in manipulating Spanish syntax, but then I started paying attention to what she was saying. Spanish-language hip-hop was no less defiant than hip-hop coming from the U.S. I came to deeply appreciate hip-hop that challenged not just racism but the legacy of colonialism, Indigenous genocide, institutional misogyny, classism and the overbearing presence of the U.S. in the daily life of Latin America for hundreds of years.

All of that is in the music our show has covered and in the words of the musicians we have interviewed for over a decade. And if you listen carefully, you can hear a throughline from the most recent Argentine rhyming, to Cypress Hill to Grandmaster Flash to Little Richard, demanding that people listen up and pay attention to the artful expression of marginalized communities that just want to celebrate the joys and challenges of just being alive. Here, find a collection of just a few of Alt.Latino's best hip-hop interviews, from guest DJ sets to in-depth interviews. — Felix Contreras


Mala Rodriguez Shares Her Music And Influences (2011)

Spanish rapper Mala Rodriguez
/ Courtesy of the artist
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Courtesy of the artist
Spanish rapper Mala Rodriguez

"That's what rap is, right? It's rhythm and poetry," the Spanish rapper and Alt.Latino favorite Mala Rodriguez said when she appeared on the podcast in 2011. In this interview, recorded in her native language, she shares why she doesn't want to limit herself to one genre.

Enciéndete: 9 Exciting New Latin Rap Songs (2012)

Argentine rapper Alika
/ Courtesy of the artist
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Courtesy of the artist
Argentine rapper Alika

In this 2012 episode, Felix Contreras and former Alt.Latino host, NPR criminal justice correspondent and host of The Last Cup Jasmine Garsd collect some of their favorite, politically charged discoveries across Latin rap from across the world, with an assist from DJ Juan Data.

Guest DJ: Ana Tijoux Talks Hip-Hop, Chilean Politics and Being Married To Jazz (2012)

Ana Tijoux
/ Courtesy of the artist
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Courtesy of the artist
Ana Tijoux

In 2012, rapper Ana Tijoux came on the podcast to deliver "one of the most eclectic and passionate" guest DJ sessions Alt.Latino has ever done, with the rapper touching on her wide-ranging influences, from French hip-hop to Public Enemy.

Guest DJ: Calle 13 (2012)

Calle 13 singer Rene Perez
Leo Ramirez / AFP/Getty Images
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AFP/Getty Images
Calle 13 singer Rene Perez

"Calle 13 is exactly what mainstream Latin music needs right now: an injection of rebellion, thought and real sexuality," Garsd wrote of the group in 2012. Polarizing and provocative, the group joined Alt.Latino right after releasing its 2011, Grammy Award-winning album Entren Los Que Quieran, which established it as a singular force in Latin music.

Black, Puerto Rican And Proud: Guest DJ Tego Calderón (2013)

Puerto Rican rapper Tego Calderon
Coburn Dukehart / NPR
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NPR
Puerto Rican rapper Tego Calderon

Tego Calderón joined the podcast in 2012 to talk about his music and African roots, but Garsd would join the rapper a year later in his studio in San Juan for a conversation about the history of Afro-Puerto Rican culture and music on the island.

Spanish Hip-Hop, An Afro-Colombian Remix and More (2013)

Mala Rodriguez
/ Courtesy of the artist
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Courtesy of the artist
Mala Rodriguez

In one of Alt.Latino's new music roundups, Garsd and Contreras bring together a handful of new songs, including new music from the Spanish rapper Mala Rodriguez's 2013 album Bruja.

How Hip-Hop Changed Latin Music Forever (2014)

Rapper Bocafloja
Thomas De Los Santos / Courtesy of the artist
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Courtesy of the artist
Rapper Bocafloja

In this episode commemorating Black History Month, music blogger Juan Data returns to the show along with the rapper Bocafloja, for a deep-dive into how hip-hop influenced the Latin American music scene forever.

'La Verdad': The Truth Of Latin American Hip-Hop (2017)

Brazilian rapper Rapadura Xique Chico
/ Courtesy of the artist
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Courtesy of the artist
Brazilian rapper Rapadura Xique Chico

In this episode, Alt.Latino dives into the book La Verdad: An International Dialogue On Hip Hop Latinidades, co-edited by Melissa Castillo-Garsow and Jason Nichols, for a conversation on how hip-hop has brought the world closer together.

Guest DJ: Residente On Life And Music After Calle 13 (2017)

Calle 13 rapper Residente
Adam Kissick / Adam Kissick
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Adam Kissick
Calle 13 rapper Residente

Former co-leader of Calle 13, the rapper Residente, joined the show in 2017 for a solo guest DJ set, as well as a conversation on traveling the globe to learn more about his roots, a trip that inspired both an album and a film.

La Dame Blanche: Hip-Hop Urbano Cubano (2018)

Vocalist La Dame Blanche
Pepe Escarpita / Courtesy of the artist
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Courtesy of the artist
Vocalist La Dame Blanche

This episode presents rap from Cuba, in the form of a Spanish language conversation with the artist La Dame Blanche, "a cigar-smoking, classically trained flutist."

Bad Bunny En Español: El Nuevo Disco Y Sus Influencias (2018)

Bad Bunny
Ethan Miller / Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Bad Bunny

Before he was one of the world's biggest global popstars, he was Benito, right here on Alt.Latino. This interview, in Spanish, meets the Puerto Rican artist right before he dropped X 100PRE.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anamaria Artemisa Sayre is co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.
Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.
Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.
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